Tuesday, 29 May 2012

MELBOURNE CEMETERY IRONWORK

Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content (unlike the high carbon content of  steel), and in addition has fibrous inclusions, known as slag. This is what gives it a "grain" resembling wood, which is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile and easily welded. Historically, it was known as "commercially pure iron". However, it no longer qualifies as such because current standards for commercially pure iron require a carbon content of less than 0.008 wt%.

Prior to the development of effective methods of steelmaking and the availability of large quantities of steel, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron. A modest amount of wrought iron was used as a raw material for manufacturing of steel, which was mainly used to produce swords, cutlery, chisels, axes and other edge tools as well as springs and files. Demand for wrought iron reached its peak in the 1860s with the adaptation of ironclad warships and railways, but then declined as mild steel became more available.
Before they came to be made of mild steel, items produced from wrought iron included rivets, nails, wire, chains, rails, railway couplings, water and steam pipes, nuts, bolts, horseshoes, handrails, straps for timber roof trusses, and
ornamental ironwork. Wrought iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale. Many products described nowadays as 'wrought iron', such as guard rails, garden furniture and gates, are made of mild steel. They retain that description because they are wrought (worked) by hand.

In Victorian time ornamental wrought ironwork was an indispensable part of architectural ornament. This was very much the case not only in homes for this life, but also in the homes for the afterlife, i.e. graves! Melbourne Central Cemetery has a huge number of graves from the Victorian era, which have much wrought iron in the form of ornamental railings and little "fences" around the graves. The last photo amuses me as it is one of ornamental ironwork railings on a rooftop viewing platform, reminiscent of the railings around a grave. The little angels complete the funerary illusion.

This post is part of Julie's Taphophile Tragics meme.









19 comments:

  1. I love wandering through cemeteries, especially old ones. This one is just calling to me!

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  2. What wonderful images! The cemetery reminds me of New Orleans, LA.

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  3. Well that is informative, Nick! In all my decades of working with handcrafted products, I had thought the wrought in wrought iron only meant worked... and refered to ornamental product, like these lovely grave fences! I had no idea it was a type of iron with particular content specs. Of course what's also interesting is how cemeteries often displays common styles of something or another. It's not every day you see a place filled with wrought iron fences around graves.

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  4. Marvelous captures as always, Nick! Like Lois, the cemetery reminds me of the ones in New Orleans! Beautiful and I do love the iron work and, as always, I learned something new as well! Hope your week is going well!

    Sylvia

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  5. Great post and such beautiful pictures.

    Herding Cats

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  6. Lovely set of photos, rarely see metalwork on UK graves, not sure if it was never in fashion or if they were melted down during WW2 as so many garden and park railings were. I visited Coalbrookdale in the Ironbridge Gorge recently where iron ore was first smelted using coking coal, fascinating stuff. Yes the angels on the viewing platform do make it look rather like the site of a sky burial!

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  7. I also thought the wrought meant 'worked'! so thank you for clearing that up!

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  8. That iron lacework is terrific.

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  9. Beautiful, beautiful fences, I really like this.
    A few months ago I visited a cemetery here in New York city and our tour guide told us that most of the elegant and beautiful fences that used to be in the cemetery were long gone, they melted them down during a war (not sure which one it was anymore).
    Thanks for sharing!

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  10. What an interesting cemetery! I like the decorative patterns of the ironwork. Here in the UK, lots of ironwork was melted down during WW2.

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  11. Beautiful work on that old wrought iron! And I so appreciate your explanation of it - I had no idea about its origin. You are such a treasure with your research and facts! Thanks so much for the photos!

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  12. hahaha. caged after death...
    it looks funny to me.
    perhaps when they werent rusted yet it looked better.. :)
    great pics!!

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  13. I have found very few graves with iron fences. mostly it seems reserved for well-to-do family plots and even then, they are not as elaborate as these.

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  14. With your opening paragraph, Nick, I thought I was listening to my younger brother. He is a metallurgist with OneSteel. Never walk across the Harbour Bridge with him!

    We have cemeteries in Sydney which resemble Melbourne General with its preponderance of fenced plots. The variety of patterns is wonderful and I have such a collection now. Living in Paddington as I do, it is wonderful to see the iron lacework on the terraces. However, I am not capable of telling the original lacework from the modern lacework. I guess, in this case, the difference does not matter.

    Is that final 'viewing platform' actually in the cemetery or elsewhere? It looks like some of the houses over at Williamstown (is it ... over the other side of the bay) where the ships captains had houses in the 19th century. This was known as the captains walk.

    I love how you stack info into each post. Most refreshing.

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  15. I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post.
    Iron Fences

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  16. Hello Nick,
    Great photos, often been to Melbourne and love its history.
    I am particularly interested in your third last photograph which is just the iron work laying on the ground next to a piece of concrete. There are three circle pieces on the iron work. Could you please let me know where this grave is at Melbourne.
    Thanks
    Mary

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  17. Hello Nick,
    Great photos, often been to Melbourne and love its history.
    I am particularly interested in your third last photograph which is just the iron work laying on the ground next to a piece of concrete. There are three circle pieces on the iron work. Could you please let me know where this grave is at Melbourne.
    Thanks
    Mary

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